Oct 18, 2023 - News

Scoop: Detroit Strategic Neighborhood Fund seeks a third round of funding

Illustration of one hundred dollar bills on a street name sign.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

The city's major neighborhood investment program is getting a third phase, Axios Detroit has learned.

Why it matters: Leaders are in early discussions over Strategic Neighborhood Fund (SNF) "part three" — another tranche of the effort that pumps philanthropic, corporate and public dollars into specific areas outside downtown for revitalization.

Flashback: The SNF started with three multi-neighborhood areas in 2016: the Villages, Livernois-6 Mile and Southwest.

The latest: The city and Invest Detroit are seeking out funders for the next round and having some "initial conversations," Donald Rencher, the city's group executive for housing, planning and development, tells Axios.

  • Invest Detroit, a community financial institution, works with the city as SNF's fiduciary, or manager. It oversees and helps direct the bucket of funding to public projects like parks, as well as gap funding for new development.
  • The organization declined to disclose how much it's planning to raise or from whom.

The intrigue: Instead of choosing additional neighborhoods to focus on like during SNF 2.0, 3.0 is sticking with the same 10 areas. The goal is to build on and expand what it has done, Jermaine Ruffin, senior VP of neighborhoods for Invest Detroit, tells Axios.

  • "What other opportunities exist for us that we can partner with the community and make a reality? So that's really this next phase," he says.
  • The 10 areas are "not yet at a point of resiliency where SNF is largely no longer needed," Ruffin says. "We're committed to finishing what we started and continuing investments in these areas to further stabilize them."

Context: For example, Rencher says, in the Livernois area they can extend efforts further west along McNichols Road to Wyoming Avenue. In Southwest, they could go further down Vernor Highway.

  • "The one thing that the mayor was really adamant about was, 'You guys aren't done,'" Rencher says.
  • "We have a list of developers who want to do more projects in these particular areas."

Plus, a "small amount" of funding may also get reallocated from slow-to-start developments to projects that are progressing more quickly, he adds.

  • Rencher declined to specify names.

A look at the funding so far

A three story building that's still under construction, alongside a street with new walkways and a new protected bike lane.
The $8.2 million Ribbon development, which got a $1.4 million grant through SNF, is under construction with 18 apartments alongside streetscape improvements on East Warren. Photo: Annalise Frank/Axios

The SNF has raised $75 million in philanthropic funds so far, alongside more than $110 million in public dollars.

  • It's deployed a total of $262 million for its projects, including loans and owner equity, and plans to use up existing funding by the end of 2024, per SNF.
  • It says 70% of projects are led by developers of color or community groups.

Here's a breakdown of the spending, per a presentation from a June SNF funders' breakfast:

  • $4.2 million drafting plans for each targeted area with overarching goals and potential projects.
  • $139.9 million on 78,000 square feet of commercial space and 378 housing units.
  • $7.4 million on single-family home rehab.
  • $27 million for construction work on 11 parks.
  • $83 million on 12 streetscapes.

What we're watching: Invest Detroit commissioned a forthcoming U of M study on the impact of SNF over time on residents' quality of life.

Zoom in: One corridor that is receiving attention from SNF is East Warren, which recently celebrated the completion of an $8.8 million streetscape.

  • What a major thoroughfare like East Warren wants from the next SNF round is more help increasing corridor density and foot traffic, Joe Rashid, executive director of E. Warren Development Corp., tells Axios.
  • The community drives the neighborhood improvement conversation, while SNF and other programs are tools that layer investments on top of each other, he says.
  • Developments in process there with SNF backing include the Ribbon and the Deco.

The bottom line: "When it works well, it's the city, Invest Detroit and the [community organizations] all on the same page, understanding what the common goal is and working toward that same goal," Rashid says.

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